I find myself listening to music from Taylor Swift’s new album “Lover” a lot these days. It’s pretty good music in the context of modern pop music. But, Jesus, Tay-Tay, how old are you? You’re a grown-ass woman now.
Not that it’s my place to tell her what to do — it’s not — but as an audience member I grow frustrated with her training bra music. If you’re going to be a huge superstar, you’re at some point going to have to admit that you…have sex. It’s not as though she isn’t thirsty at points in her modern lyrics, but there’s still an element of air quotes to the whole thing.
But, really, I guess if it’s not broke don’t fix it. That’s her thing. She’s middle-of-the-road, middlebrow pop music for people who don’t want to be challenged. She’s kind of the Korean drama of music. So, from a strictly musical standpoint, she’s fine. She can drift through the decades writing lyrics that make 14-year-old girls think they’re being “naughty” by singing them outloud alone in their room.
Having said all that, there is the issue of her Hollywood career. She has all the elements of someone who could make a successful transition from pop star to Hollywood star. But for one thing — sex appeal Just look at Lady Gaga. There’s no question Lady Gaga is an adult woman who might take a lover — male or female — just because she’s horny.
While Tay-Tay is obviously stunning, she just doesn’t exude that danger that is critical to sex appeal. Sex appeal, in part, is the questions someone’s demeanor leaves in your mind. Think back to Prince. In Controversy, he sings something like, “Is he gay, is he straight?” With Tay-Tay, the only question I have about her motives is…has she actually had sex? Even if she has, I honestly can’t imagine her doing it. She’s in a twilight of a young woman who hasn’t fully transitioned out of late childhood.
What’s more, I just don’t see Tay-Tay doing what is required to fix this situation. I mean, maybe, she might drop a toe into music that is a bit more provocative, but even then that’s likely to have a huge amount of pushback from her fanbase. And, really, this is an example of how her being, like, sane and stuff is both a boon and a bane. Her rock-solid mental stability helps her become and stay hugely successful. But not being weird hurts her because she uses the metrics that any normal person would use. She doesn’t do something crazy for the sake of being different. Art for art’s sake is not her bailiwick.
As I’ve said before, you do you Tay-Tay. Though to quote Billy Joel, I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.
Throughout pop rock history, there have occasionally be so-called “super-groups” that have formed. The usually last an album or two and that’s it. One of the weird — at least to me — macro trends of pop the last decade or so is that rock has faded into nothing while we’ve seen the rise of popular female solo acts.
Anyway, it’d be nice to have a girl supergroup. Here’s my dream roster:
Lead Vocals: Taylor Swift Lead Guitar: Annie Clark (St. Vincent) Bass: Melissa Auf der Maur Drums: Avril Lavigne
I like this band because it would almost force Swift to be a rock star. She has it in her to do it, but she’d need a serious push. All the women would sing as well as play an instrument.
Regardless, I don’t ever see anything like this happening for various reasons. But it’d be fun if it did happen.
Now, let’s get some things out of the way. Taylor Swift is demonstrably a very awkward, sensitive and gentle soul. She also has a strangely turbulent romantic history. Also, Swift at least outwardly seems reasonably rock solid in her mental stability.
The case could be made that her being so “normal” is both a boon and a bane to her creativity. It helps her with maintaining her fanbase of absolute-center of pop culture grown up tweens who still need training bra music. Creative people, the ones who make a difference in culture are almost always completely bonkers. The thing about Tay-Tay is she is growing older and as such more self confident.
Either she gets married and drops a few kids or she risks alienating her fan base who are going through that particular significant change in their lives. The older women get, the more raunchy they become. There’s a good chance that the disconnect between Tay-Tay’s public persona and her fan base may grow so large that there’s going to be a pretty dramatic snap. To put it another way, Tay-Tay risks not seeming very…relatable.
So I propose that Swift let her hair down a little bit. It’s would have to be a strategic move on her part. She would need to do it on her own terms from a position of strength not weakness caused by being completely bonkers.
As such, sooner or later, she’s going to have to shake things up. She’s going to have to do an album like Britney Spears’ “Blackout” or Nelly Furtado’s “Loose.” In the short term it would alienate a lot of her fanbase. But long term it would definitely help her career. You can only be the definition of American wholesomeness and purity for so long before it grows tiresome. Or, put another way, if she wants a serious Hollywood career she’s going to have to change how people perceive her. I mean, I see Margaret Qualley as a serious actress because she seems like a normal human being who thinks about sex. Tay-Tay just isn’t very sexual. She’s the girl your mom wants you to settle down with, not the girl you meet a bar and think you actually have a chance of hooking up with.
She’s obviously very ambitious. Swift’s pretty safe for the time being. But as she approaches 30, things are going to change. Even her youngest original fans will be, like, women now. Swift is master of the sly discussion of her personal life and maybe it’s time for her to be a bit more aggressive with her lyrics.
But, meh. She serves her purpose in pop culture, I guess. She may simply always fill the niche of being the pop star that fits the MAGA dream but in her personal life is far more progressive. You do you, Tay-Tay.
The thing about Taylor Swift is she is the Star Wars of pop music. She has a huge built-in fanbase. She is also kind of the absolute center of pop music and culture.
So, here I am, listening to music from her latest album, Lover. It’s pretty standard modern pop music. But occasionally, she throws some conspicuous curve balls at me. Take, for instance, the song, “The Man.” It’s reasonably woke for pop music, I guess. The issue is, of course, that in a sense Swift is simply going where her audience is going in this Age of The Thousand Year Trump.
Swift is like the hot girl in a small Southern town who is secretly dating a black dude but refuses to go public with the relationship because she might lose Homecoming Queen. The best example of this is how big a fan Swift is of the great TV show Fleabag. This is an prime example of what’s going on in Swift’s mind is significantly different than her well-hone public persona. As it is, I still struggle to believe Swift isn’t a virgin.
I guess the point of all this is Swift is never going to do what she might otherwise do — go through that crazy rebellious phase that female pop singers often go through. I mean, it’s not like she’s going to do a Playboy spread or anything. If she does, it’ll be when she’s in her 40s. Even Taylor Swift can’t escape the power of developmental psychology. The crazy thing is by the time she’s in her 40s, if Swift isn’t married with 3 kids she’s probably going to be a pretty aggressive cougar. She’ll be dating 2039’s version of Pete Davidson.
It’s not like Swift’s going to swerve into rock music. Or she’s not going to do a Blackout album like Britney Spears. Her fan base simply could not handle it. She’s always going to be what moderate centrist (white) young women imbue their hopes and fears into.
Now, maybe I’m wrong. If Swift got Billie Eilish to write and produce a single, then my views on her will change. As Swift grows older and a bit more secure in herself, there’s a least small chance she might produce an album that’s seen as outside her comfort zone. But that’s more a mid-30s come back album thing for her to do.
Another unknown is to what lengths she’ll go to be seen as a Hollywood star. Any number of women you might otherwise never expect to go topless have done so because of the demands of the showbiz industry.
I see her coasting through mainstream mediocracy for the time being, however. She has a vested interest in simply drifting through her career producing music that is more a reflection of her audience than a challenge to it.
The thing about saying anything on the Internet is it’s not like there’s really sense of “practical obscurity.” Yes, there is the so-called “Dark Web,” but in general if you write about something or someone, there’s a better than even shot that the topic is going to find out about it.
For instance, I have written a little bit about Taylor Swift. I am completely indifferent about Swift. I just don’t care. She produces reasonably good pop music but any interest I have in her has to do more with her position in pop culture than anything else. She, as a person, evokes little more than a “meh.”
Anyway, I’ve noticed that a minor little trickle of people have looked at these posts. No one reads this blog, so anyone reading it for any reason catches my attention. Meh.
Oh, Tay-Tay. I still believe that Taylor Swift is DL one of the weirdest celebrities out there. Now, I’m not picking on her. I’m just making an observation. The reason why I believe this is Swift obviously very, very sensitive about how people perceive her.
The latest indication of this is the videos associated with her most recent releases. It’s my impression that for some time now some members of the extreme Right have assumed she was one of them because, well, what she looks like. They thought was obvious that she was an insane racist bigot just like them because she was what they imagined the “perfect” American looked liked.
Guess what! She’s not!
So, given how incredibly sensitive she is, Swift has gone way, way, way, WAY out of her way to show what she really believes. I’m impressed with her willingness to do this, even if, in a sense, it’s about four years too late.
But, really, the issue for me is now her politics but her music. Swift is in a unique position to change the musical world. Her fans are likely to follow her anywhere and it should would be nice if she would come out with an rock album. I would even settle for a “pop rock” album. Yet, I don’t see this happening. She’s the absolute “center” of pop music and I don’t expect her to go rock anytime soon.
I really like Taylor Swift’s latest song. But while I won’t call it derivative, I will suggest that it’s heavily influenced by two other songs.
One of the songs is Lily Allen’s “Straight To Hell.” The other song is Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear It For the Boy.”
Swift’s song has been slowed down, however. So it’s not a one-to-one. But if you listen carefully to the background music, the “wall of sound” if you will, you can definitely hear the Allen song floating around.
Now, when it comes to Williams’ song, I think the producer of Swift’s song simply wanted to evoke the feel, the vibe of that song. But that sound was all over the place in 80s music so hearing it in Swift song is kind of driving me crazy.
Thus Swift’s song is a mixture of this song slowed down a lot:
And a big chunk of the sound of this song used as something as both a tone setter and a “cover” for the use of Allen’s song.
Both those two songs together, throw in some awkward modern lyrics about haters and…ta-da!
As I’ve written before, I think Taylor Swift decided to use Lily Allen’s “Straight To Hell” as a musical blueprint for her song, “You Need To Calm Down.”
The more I listen to the two songs, it’s a much more subtle similarity than I originally thought. I guess what I’m hearing is there’s a background sound in the new song that is very, very similar to the Allen song. And the beat is very similar, if in a very garbled way.
Here’s what I think happened:
Swift is really mad about getting it from both gay people and Right Wing nutjobs. So, she found a song that expresses her view on the subject: Straight to hell.
So, her song should really be entitled, “Go Straight to Hell Haters.” But, as I said, there’s another song’s sound being used as something of a cover in the Swift song. It’s such a direct lift, in fact, that given enough time and thought I can probably figure it out.
It’s an 80s song, I think. It’s conspicuous as to be pretty self-evident. I just can’t think of the song right now. Whatever the 80s song is I’m hearing the influence of, it was a pretty big hit.
I really like Taylor Swift’s latest song, “You Need To Calm Down.” But something about it reminded me of something else. And it just occurred to me what it is — Lily Allen’s version of The Clash’s “Straight To Hell.”
Here’s take a listen for yourself:
There’s another song floating around in Swift’s song, though. It’s got a very 80s New Wave Electronica vibe to it. But otherwise, I sense a very, very strong influence on Swift’s song from the Allen song.